Hands of a guy on laptop keyboard

The genius in all of us

Published on 18 June 2012
Updated on 05 April 2024

In 1994, at Inakadate, Japan, farmers seeking ways to attract tourists invented “rice paddy art”[1] – art that would put Chinese conceptual artist A Wei Wei to shame. Here is an example:


Farmers use four kinds of (different coloured) rice seedlings to create the effect; the picture is destroyed at harvest. The field hands no longer use their imagination and memory – but a computer printout – in order to decide where to plant which kind of seedling. My sources are coy as to who does the work, but I suspect it is women.


There is no end to human creativity: our inherent ability to use enablers – here rice seedlings – first to imagine, and then bring to fruition, a vision that serves emotional (and, yes, also financial) goals. Art needs no self-aggrandizing “genius” to emerge: just common people seeking new ways to be themselves together. If you have an objective, you’re selling yourself short.

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